Computational Analysis of Asphalt Binder based on Phase Field Method

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Virginia Tech


The mechanical performance evaluation of asphalt binder has always been a challenging issue for pavement engineers. Recently, the Phase Field Method (PFM) has emerged as a powerful computational tool to simulate the microstructure evolution of asphalt binder. PFM analyzes the structure from the free energy aspect and can provide a view of the whole microstructure evolution process. In this dissertation, asphalt binder performance is analyzed by PFM in three aspects: first, the relationship between asphalt chemistry and performance is investigated. The components of asphalt are simplified to three: asphaltene, resin and oil. Simulation results show that phase separation will occur under certain thermal conditions and result in an uneven distribution of residual thermal stress. Second, asphalt cracking is analyzed by PFM. The traditional approach to analyze crack propagation is Classic Fracture Mechanics first proposed by Griffith, which needs to clearly depict the crack front conditions and may cause complex cracking topologies. PFM describes the microstructure using a phase-field variable which assumes positive one in the intact solid and negative one in the crack void. The fracture toughness is modeled as the surface energy stored in the diffuse interface between the intact solid and crack void. To account for the growth of cracks, a non-conserved Allen-Cahn equation is adopted to evolve the phase-field variable. The energy based formulation of the phase-field method handles the competition between the growth of surface energy and release of elastic energy in a natural way: the crack propagation is a result of the energy minimization in the direction of the steepest descent. Both the linear elasticity and phase-field equation are solved in a unified finite element frame work, which is implemented in the commercial software COMSOL. Different crack mode simulations are performed for validation. It was discovered that the onset of crack propagation agrees very well with the Griffith criterion and experimental results. Third, asphalt self-healing phenomenon is studied based on the Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) technology. The self-healing mechanism is simulated in two ways: thermodynamic approach and mechanical approach. Cahn-Hilliard dynamics and Allen-Cahn dynamics are adopted, respectively.



Asphalt binder, Computational analysis, Phase field modeling, Microstructure evolution